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Heartfelt poems from bereaved WW1 families

Published on 2 Dec 2013 08:58 : wwi world war one ww1 in memoriam poems genes reunited : 7 comments : 7395 views

Touching tributes written by families for their loved ones killed during WW1 have revealed the devastating impact the war had on family life in Britain and the importance of religion for people.


Scores of ‘In Memoriam’ poems written to accompany death notices, published in local papers across the country, have been uncovered by the family history website Genes Reunited.


The poems, sent by wives, parents, brothers, sisters and orphaned children, gave families an opportunity to publicly express their sorrow and horror when there was no grave to visit whilst also showing how proud they were of the sacrifice their loved one made. 


A poem published in 1916 in the Dover Express from the “heartbroken wife and children” of Lance Corporal Arthur Robert Clarke, tells how they constantly call his name “But there is nothing left to answer, But your picture in the frame”. 


Another, from the Nottingham Evening Post in May 1916, tells of a family’s grief that their son and brother died without any of his loved ones around him. The “sorrowing mother and sister” of Rifleman C Hall, from the Kings Royal Rifles, wrote: “None near him who loved him to say goodbye before he closed his eyes, but in a hero’s grave he lies beneath some foreign skies.”


For many, not knowing where their loved one was buried was the hardest thing to cope with. In the Grantham Journal in 1917, the sister of a Pte. Richard Pick said: “The unknown grave is the bitterest blow, none but an aching heart can know.”


For the parents and brother of Pte Harry Randall, Kings Royal Rifles, who was killed in action in December 1915, the thought of the celebrations that would accompany soldiers returning home was upsetting. The Grantham Journal published this poem in 1917 “But the hardest part is yet to come, When our heroes all return, And we miss, among the cheering crowds, The face of our dear one.”


A number of the poems emphasise how important religion was for people and that a strong faith in being reunited with their loved one provided strength at a very difficult time.

The Dover Express printed a poem in 1916 where a mother wrote of her beloved son, Henry William Piggott: “Sleep on dear loved one and take thy rest, God has chosen for the best, Our loss is nothing to your gain, We have parted to meet again”


Myko Clelland of Genes Reunited, said: “We have been doing research into the lives of those left behind during WW1. Too often we read of the 16 million who tragically lost their lives during The Great War without really understanding the grief that families went through. These ‘In Memoriam’ poems bring home the pain and sorrow they experienced.”


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by Leslie on 12 Dec 2013 17:37 :
L Wiltshire.I lost three uncles w w I ,and one in w w 2.
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by Leslie on 12 Dec 2013 17:37 :
L Wiltshire.I lost three uncles w w I ,and one in w w 2.
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by William on 12 Dec 2013 19:52 :
My Grandfather was gassed at Ypres in 1915. He didn't die immediately but in December 1935 aged 49. The Gas corrupted his lungs. His Death Certificate says 'Pneumonia'. How many others suffered a similar premature death post war?
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by Jennifer on 12 Dec 2013 21:53 :
My uncle died in Galipolli during WW1 and his body was never found. This is a poem from his mother, brothers and sisters.

When alone in our sorrow, and bitter tears flow,
There stealeth a dream of the sweet long ago,
And unknown to the world he stands by our side,
And whispers these words " Death cannot divide"

Another poem from his sister and brother in law.

The spring has its garlands of flowers,
The summer its fruit and its grain,
The autumn has bright sunny bowers,
But our hearts have sorrow and pain.

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by Dorothy on 13 Dec 2013 04:09 :
Beautiful. They are the same feelings for all lost in all wars. :-( <3
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by on 13 Dec 2013 19:47 :
OH, the futility of war causing so much sorrow;which is caused by greed and envy and is always the innocent which suffers''
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by June on 20 Dec 2013 22:50 :
2 if my grandads were killed first war one from kent john Rhodes my mums dad kathleen finch from marden kent